An April trial date was set Thursday for three South Florida men accused of raising tens of thousands of dollars for the Pakistani Taliban terror group.
U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan set trial for April 23 for Muslim cleric Hafiz Khan, 76, and his two sons Irfan, 38, and 24-year-old Izhar Khan. Hafiz and Izhar are both imams at local mosques. All three have pleaded not guilty to four terrorism support charges that each carry potential 15-year prison sentences.
Jordan said it will take time for defense lawyers and the accused men to gain access to and review classified evidence in the case, including transcripts of numerous FBI recordings of phone calls and personal conversations. Much of it was collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act frequently used in terrorism cases.
The judge said it's essential that the Khans are able to see at least some of the secret evidence against them.
"There will be an order entered giving them access," Jordan said at a hearing.
The Khans are charged along with three others still at large in Pakistan with collecting and funneling at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, which targets both U.S. and Pakistani government interests. The group has been linked to al-Qaida and prosecutors say it had a role in the failed May 2010 attempt to bomb New York's bustling Times Square, among other attacks.
Khurrum Wahid, who represents Hafiz Khan, wants the Justice Department to declassify large portions of the evidence because it involves Khan's own conversations. Wahid said rules protecting U.S. secrets from disclosure in court are aimed more at the methods used to obtain information rather than the material itself.
"The majority of this information is information my client would know first-hand," Wahid said.
Defense attorneys are also asking Jordan to order prosecutors to provide more details about the case, including the identity of a confidential informant and names of people in the U.S. and Pakistan who may have been part of the alleged terror financing network. The informant provided transportation and other assistance to Hafiz Khan, including helping the elderly man deal with government agencies such as Medicare, according to court documents.
"We need names, places, dates," said Michael Caruso, chief assistant federal public defender representing Irfan Khan. "We can't guess as to the people we need to talk to and investigate."
Prosecutor John Shipley said defense attorneys will get much of that from classified evidence and other material that has yet to be released to them.
"That's where the answers are found," he said.
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